Montana is poised to become the first state to ban TikTok. The state’s legislature passed a bill requiring app stores to block the app in the state. The bill, which passed 54 – 43, will now head to Republican Governor Greg Gianforte, who previously banned the app from state-owned devices.
The ban is slated to go into effect in 2024, though it will likely face legal challenges well before then. Still, the bill has been closely watched as pressure ramps up on TikTok. CEO Shou Chew testified at a Congressional hearing last month where he tried, largely unsuccessfully, to downplay the company’s ties to ByteDance and China.
Meanwhile, the United States government is trying to force ByteDance to divest from TikTok entirely. As The New York Times points out, Montana’s ban could serve as a kind of template for the rest of the country, even though it’s unclear whether such bans will hold up to legal challenges.
Like federal lawmakers, the Montana bill claims that TikTok’s ties to ByteDance puts US users personal data at risk because the company could be compelled to turn over information to the Chinese government. TikTok has long denied these claims, and has committed more than a billion dollars to Project Texas, a project meant to address national security concerns.
TikTok has previously said that the proposed ban in Montana would hurt small businesses that rely on the app. In a statement following the bill’s passage, a TikTok spokesperson called it “egregious government overreach” and said it planned to “fight” the measure.
“The bill’s champions have admitted that they have no feasible plan for operationalizing this attempt to censor American voices and that the bill’s constitutionality will be decided by the courts. We will continue to fight for TikTok users and creators in Montana whose livelihoods and First Amendment rights are threatened by this egregious government overreach.”
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